South Carolina Senate Finance chairman calls for a decision on Santee Cooper

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South Carolina Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman says the state should divest from public utility Santee Cooper absent reform and a change in leadership.

In a memo to members of the Santee Cooper Review and Policy Subcommittee, Leatherman, R-Florence, asked the subcommittee Monday to provide a recommendation on whether the state should retain ownership of Santee Cooper or sell it.

“Absent meaningful reform that includes a new board and increased oversight, I see no choice but to divest the state of what is increasingly not an asset but an albatross,” Leatherman wrote.

Leatherman said it is “paramount” to resolve the issue during the upcoming legislative session, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 12.

“Time is of the essence,” Leatherman wrote, noting he did not intend to advocate for either outcome in the letter.

“The decision on whether to sell Santee Cooper is clearly under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee as it is a financial transaction with impacts on the State government, local government, and ratepayers,” Leatherman wrote.

Leatherman previously has called for Santee Cooper Board Chairman Dan Ray to resign. The South Carolina Legislature’s Santee Cooper oversight committee questioned Santee Cooper executives last week on the utility’s recent decisions on refinancing debt.

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